Archive

ShareThis Page
Justices split in alleged redistricting by race | TribLIVE.com
News

Justices split in alleged redistricting by race

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, November 12, 2014 8:39 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court was divided on Wednesday over a challenge to Alabama’s legislative redistricting plan, which plaintiffs said was drawn with too much emphasis on voters’ race.

The challengers are black officeholders and Democrats, who argued that the state’s Republican leadership packed too many minority voters into too few districts. Although a proportional number of black officials were elected under the plan, it raised constitutional questions about the use of race in making such decisions, the challengers said.

The allegation made the oral arguments unusual.

“You realize, I assume,” Justice Antonin Scalia told Richard Pildes, an attorney for one of the groups, “you’re making the argument that the opponents of black plaintiffs used to make here.”

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. — who in a previous reapportionment case decried the “sordid business” of dividing people by race — said states have little choice under a federal law requiring the creation of districts that give minorities a chance to elect candidates of their choice.

Pildes agreed that states could be in a “bind” when trying to build districts that have enough minority voters but without “unnecessarily packing voters by race in ways that further polarize and isolate us by race.”

Asked Roberts skeptically: “They have to hit this sweet spot between those two extremes without taking race predominantly into consideration?”

The situation is replicated across the South, especially, as Republicans gain control of state legislatures and, therefore, the reapportionment process.

They use the Voting Rights Act to create districts with high minority percentages — which, in turn, allow surrounding districts to become more white and lean Republican.

A federal panel in Virginia recently said some congressional districts there are improperly packed.

But Justice Samuel Alito Jr. told Pildes and Eric Schnapper, representing black officeholders and a Democratic group, that they aren’t really opposed to the use of “racial quotas” in creating the districts.

“You’re just interested in lower quotas,” Alito said.

The question could come down to whether Alabama had partisan gerrymandering goals in mind — the court has allowed that — rather than racial gerrymandering. And that is difficult to unravel when, as in Alabama, racial and political identities are closely linked.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.